New soccer team gives hope to young cancer patients in Gaza

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Moatasem Al-Nabeeh, 14, who is diagnosed with cancer, poses during an interview at his home in Gaza City Feb 12, 2019. (photo: Dylan Martinez / Reuters)
Struggling with shortages of medical equipment and medicine, Gaza’s hospitals are unable to provide proper care for cancer patients.

By Nidal al-Mughrabi | Reuters | Feb 20, 2019

‘Like children anywhere in Gaza, or in the world, those boys have ambitions, they want to become footballers and we are trying to help them achieve that.’
— Rajab Sarraj, CEO of Champions Academy

Fourteen-year-old Moatasem al-Nabeeh suffers from a brain tumor. A new youth soccer team set up in Gaza for young Palestinian cancer patients has given him new hope.

“I am happier now, I play and I made new friends,” said al-Nabeeh. “They told us we can play, defy the disease and defeat it,” he added as he hit the pitch for push-ups in his bright yellow and blue uniform.

Champions Academy, one of Gaza’s biggest soccer schools, began setting up the team up five months ago and in February “Team Hope” kicked off. Its 18 players, aged between 12 and 17, have all been diagnosed with cancer, and compete against other, non-patient teams in the academy’s league.

Team Hope’s players are exempt from school fees and train for one hour per week, with doctors’ advice, Sarraj said.

Moatasem al-Nabeeh’s mother, Suheir al-Nabeeh, said the soccer team has transformed her son’s life.

“He was depressed and lonely all the time. He likes football and now he feels his life has value,” she said.

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